"I didn't even know if I hit him in the head." -- Rene Bourque, directly after (possibly) concussing Nicklas Backstrom.
Most of us have seen the replay by now, but if you haven't, here's a good clip of it. It's crystal clear in slow-mo--Bourque's elbow is out at practically a ninety degree angle, there's an actual change in direction when Backstrom tries to avoid it, and if that isn't what an intentional headshot looks like, then I'm the Queen of England.
Even more disturbing, though, were Bourque's comments about the incident--how little responsibility he seemed willing to take for what happened, and how common a tactic that's become for players who find themselves facing a possible call from Mr. Shanahan.
It reminds me of Dan Carcillo's "that wasn't my intent." It reminds me of Zdeno Chara's "I didn't know where I was on the ice." Even more recently, there's even Brad Marchand's "I was just trying to defend myself," though that's a horse of a different color. Victim-blaming is a separate but connected issue, but what I'm having the most problem with is the players who try to pretend that had no idea what the hell they were doing at the time that they seriously injured someone, and therefore can't possibly be to blame.
Whether they're lying or not, these players then have to take ownership of what they've presented as truth--if according to their version of events, they really are so blindly unaware of the players are around them that they randomly, unintentionally deal out brain damage then--why should they be allowed to keep playing? The game happens very fast, I understand that--but the difference between these men and the ones who don't make it is supposed to be their ability to handle that, to make decisions, to have the vision and skating skills necessary to play. To me, the kind of skill we see on display every night doesn't match up with the blank-eyed mea culpas we get after the fact, when they've done something they know they shouldn't.
Everybody makes mistakes--but if you make a mistake that serious, there's no reason to think that the consequences should be any less serious. Excuses don't come across as a sincere desire to change--if you fucked up, apologize and then fix your behavior. The players who are skating carelessly are just as much of the problem right now as the players who are malicious.
I know I'm drawing a lot of hard lines here, some of them in very gray area, but I'm sick of the lameass apologies. I realize that lying to the press is a long and time-honored tradition, and on an even more basic level, nobody likes to get in trouble, but there's a point where it becomes about the overall culture change the league is trying to make, and the players who are still digging in their heels.
I also realize that these guys have different priorities than making me feel all snuggly good about the moral state of the NHL, but it makes it pretty hard to forgive them if they refuse to admit they've done anything wrong.